Buzzing: 2022 will be the year of frass
Hello friends, as we near the end of 2021, I would like to thank you all for your support this year. Do please keep sending me your thoughts, questions and comments, I really do love hearing from you.
This week in Buzzing:
2022 will be the year of frass
In Other News: Cool pictures and a meaty report
Chilli cricket Florentine chocolate drops
Here is my prediction for next year: frass will finally get the recognition it deserves.
Frass, a mixture of insect poo, leftover feed and fragments of insects, is basically the stuff left over after you’ve harvested the insects. This is what insect farms produce the most of by volume. Far from being a waste product or a by-product however, it is an integral part of the circularity of insect farming. Frass is in fact a powerful fertiliser. It also has applications in animal feed, which are currently being explored.
Until now, much of the attention has understandably focused on the jewel in the crown – insect protein – which means that frass has remained under-studied and unregulated. One start-up told me that it had been hard enough selling the concept of insect protein to investors so they hadn’t even bothered talking about frass.
Things are now changing however: in November, the European Union adopted a legislation that not only gives a legal definition of frass but also a standard for processing it. In the US, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is working on a new definition of frass in collaboration with the industry.
So what does this magic ingredient do? Because of its composition, frass is rich in nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K), it is therefore a natural alternative to the usual chemical NPK fertilisers. By adding organic matter to the soil, frass also improves the microbiological activity in the soil. But most intriguingly, studies have shown that frass can activate plant defence responses against pests and inhibit the growth of fungi. This is thought to be because of the presence of chitin, which is found in insects’ exoskeleton. As Kelsey Jensen, frass R&D manager at Aspire, summed up at her NACIA presentation back in October: “Frass is therefore a multi-functional material that can warrant a [premium] price.”
The new EU regulation means that frass can now be commercialised across the EU. Frass is also allowed in organic agriculture. Some insect farms already sold it, either in bulk to crop farmers or to garden centres who then retail it to consumers, but patchy regulation meant it was not a big market.
What I find exciting about these new prospects is that it effectively closes the loop of insect farming and makes it a zero-waste activity. So here’s to frass taking its rightful place in 2022.
In Other News
Last week, I got the chance to visit Protix in the Netherlands. They operate the largest Black Soldier Fly (BSF) farm in the world, which has been in operation since 2019. It was fascinating to see how rearing BSF is done at scale in a facility more akin to an Amazon warehouse than a “farm”. I particularly enjoyed holding a handful of the larvae and feeling their phenomenal metabolic heat. More on that soon.
African insect farming could generate crude protein worth up to US$2.6 billion and biofertilisers worth up to US$19.4 billion within a year. That is enough protein meal to meet up to 14% of the crude protein needed to rear all the pigs, goats, fish, and chickens in Africa. Such is the conclusion of a new World Bank report on insect and hydroponic farming in Africa. I’ve only read the executive summary so far but am planning to read the rest over the holidays.
Consumers like chicken fed with insects – until they’re told about it. (Food Navigator)
Bioconversión opens the first insect farm in Latin America, in Ecuador. (SeafoodSource)
Test Corner: Spicy cricket chocolate Florentine drops
Tis the season to be merry! Buzzing has gone full festive this week with these amazing spicy cricket chocolate Florentine drops. These were inspired by an Anna Jones recipe, which I adapted slightly (see below). I decided to make them with my children to send to the grandparents we would not see this Christmas. We made three batches in white, milk and dark chocolate; they looked pretty as a picture and tasted absolutely divine. (The grandparents concur: my Mum said she had to hide them).
This got me inspired: I thought crickets or mealworms would fit perfectly in the fruit and nut mix, and that a touch of chilli would not go amiss (I love chilli and chocolate together). Which led me to Bugvita’s sriracha crickets.
The result was the batch above. I gave some to a couple of friends to see what they thought. Their verdict was unanimously positive. No one seemed bothered by the fact that there were visible crickets. One friend said they actually looked shop-bought (!) and that she forgot she was eating crickets.
Another said that the cricket bits were “definitely the best” and that she would actually have liked to have more of them in the mix. (The other reviewer said she liked the fact that it was a subtle hint of chilli, so the jury seems split on how much I should put!)
Interestingly, one friend also gave some to her children, who loved them. I didn’t offer these ones to my kids as they are not fans of chilli but I may make a non-spicy version with plain roast crickets, which I think would go down a treat.
Anyway, I think this is probably one of the best and most delicious ways I have found to use whole crickets. They definitely add something to the dish and the crickets actually look like they belong to the fruit and nut mix. My friend said I should set up a stall somewhere and sell them. High praise indeed!
Buzzing’s spicy cricket Florentine chocolate drops
For the nut mix
40g flaked almonds
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 balls stem ginger, drained and roughly chopped
4 medjool dates, stoned and roughly chopped
1 good pinch flaky sea salt
2-4 tbsp whole crickets (I used Bugvita’s hot & spicy Sriracha crickets), to taste
400g good quality chocolate (you could do a couple of batches of 200g with different types of chocolate)
Toast the almonds and hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until they have coloured slightly.
Add all the other ingredients, stir.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Once melted, pour a couple of teaspoons to make a “drop”; sprinkle with the nut mix. Repeat until you have finished all the chocolate. Chill for half an hour. Enjoy!